The borough manager of Mat-Su is asking the Assembly to approve a resolution that some say is a stealth endorsement of the “Yes for Salmon” initiative that appears to be headed for the November ballot. That initiative is a shot across the bow of the proposed Pebble project in western Alaska, but also has industries worried across the state.
Manager John Moosey’s resolution wording is elastic, but supports “requirements that outline a clear standard so that responsible resource development protects our fisheries and enhances our communities and our economies.”
The resolution is on the consent agenda of the Assembly’s Tuesday meeting. That’s what has some eyebrows raised.
Consent agendas typically are approved without much discussion, allowing governing bodies to sweep up routine business into one action. The items on a consent agenda are considered noncontroversial and self-explanatory, matters that can be consolidated and approved with one motion and vote, and usually take less than 30 seconds of a meeting.
The resolution loosely describes the need for “science-based standards and forward looking policies to help ensure a balance between the critical fish and wildlife resources of the region with other needs of the population, including responsible resource development.” These are all things that the State is already charged with doing — using science and balancing competing needs.
Skeptics wonder where the wording came from and who is behind the resolution. Brian Endle, one such critic, wrote that the resolution will:
- Increase restrictions on nearly all development, especially the oil industry
- Increase the ability of groups inside or outside of Alaska to bring litigation against Alaskan industry
- Increase project time span and costs for Alaskan industry via permitting
- Drastically increase the cost and decrease the ability to build ice roads in Alaska
- Support riparian regulations (government regulation of shoreline)
But Borough Manager John Moosey explains that in 2017, the Alaska Board of Fisheries made a recommendation to strengthen the Department of Fish and Game’s permitting program by considering the creation of enforceable standards aimed at protecting fish habitat and guiding the permitting process. Alaska’s Title 16 has not been updated since statehood, he wrote.
However, the Yes for Salmon (or Stand for Salmon) initiative proponents are saying the same thing: A rewrite of Title 16 is needed to prioritize salmon habitat over all other needs and human endeavors. Yes for Salmon is a requirement that all andronomous fish be protected through stringent regulations throughout the watersheds of Alaska.
Some say that will destroy mining, oil, and gas, and that the initiative is a naked attempt to shut down the Pebble Project by creating standards that are impossible to meet.
The Mat-Su Borough meeting is Tuesday, May 15 at 6 pm in the Assembly Chambers, 350 E. Dahlia Ave., Palmer.